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Mark Dulin’s interview with the Swedish trumpet virtuoso Håkan Hardenberger is now available in the current ITG Journal. Mark ...
Mark Dulin’s interview with the Swedish trumpet virtuoso Håkan Hardenberger is now available in the current ITG Journal. Mark was gracious to send me the text as a preview some months back and has agreed to reproducing it here.
It’s going to be great fun having the author, subject, and three of the musicians cited (Tom Stevens, Steve Burns, Bob Malone) at Chosen Vale this summer. What a rare dynamic! Please watch here for announcements regarding video from the seminar.
There’s a wealth of knowledge found below. If you’re serious about playing the trumpet at a high level, please read slowly/carefully and let’s discuss various points found within.
Håkan Hardenberger Interview with Mark Dulin
Dulin: Can you talk about your first lessons with Bo Nilsson?
Hardenberger: Yes, Trying to look back, it is difficult to know how much you fantasize and how much is actual, real memory. But, what is definitely true is that even from the word go, it was very intense. Long lessons, you know, at least one hour and a half. And I was 8 years old. And from the word go, tough lessons. Because I was that young, my parents came along to the first lesson, but they couldn’t take it. They thought it was too tough. But, I never had that feeling at all. I mean, I just enjoyed it, very, very, very much. I also saved the first years. I mean, I didn’t buy any methods the first year, or whatever that time span might have been. He would write in exercises in the book and that’s also very interesting to see. He seems to have been very clever. I am amazed when I look at it, how high they start. You would think that when you start with a beginner, you always start in a certain range, Medium G or Low C or whatever. It must have been that it was easier for me to produce the first note in, let’s say an E. Because, I look at this, and most of the exercises, they start in, already C and E, and then go up and down. That’s quite an interesting thing. What he must have been very good at, first of all, what he is still very good at, is this enthusiasm thing. It becomes like a poison, immediately. I can see that with people he teaches. You just, will not give in. This is what I’m going to do. That must have been very important. And also the way he brought out the basis of my sound. Because I believe that my sound was always my sound. So many people can make trumpet sound conformist. You know, we have a certain way we think a trumpet should sound so therefore we do certain exercises to move it in that direction rather than taking out the personality of the person who is going to become the musician. It is a huge difference in outset of thought.
Dulin: That’s interesting. But you say for a long time you didn’t use methods, he just wrote out exercises.
Hardenberger: Yes, it was basically Schlossberg exercises. And then, I bought the book afterwards. Important things in the beginning were Schlossberg, Louie Maggio, early on. Also Walter Smith flexibility studies, and Clarke, of course, masses of Clarke.
Dulin: And Arban?
Hardenberger : Not so much. Not with him.
Dulin: How long did you study with him?
Hardenberger: A long time. From when I started (age 8) until I went to Paris (age16). So eight years.
Dulin: 8 years is a long time with one teacher.
Hardenberger: Yes, and it was a very fortunate start. I couldn’t have been more lucky. He was a young man of 27 or something like that. He was very, very curious. He went to Cichowicz and studied for long periods. He went to see Thibaud and he was very curious to find out what was going on. It’s not like today where you can just get on the internet and find out everything. You actually had to really go out and travel and meet these people and he did. And I benefited from that very much. And of course because of the fact that there was the Chicago school, and he saw Thibaud it also meant that from the start I had that mix of three things; the Scandinavian school, the American school and the French school, which were to become very important in the mix of how I play. You know how some teachers become very protective when the have a talent like “that’s my student” he was not like that. If he would go away to study for a while in Chicago he would send me to study with Bengt Eklund in Gothenburg or if I went to Paris with my parents for a holiday, he would say go and see Thibaud. He was always encouraging that I see other people. I remember going in 1976 to one of the first Brass conferences in Montreux, Switzerland where I then met Dokshizer and David Hickman and a lot of people. I was very curious.
Dulin: I have seen before many names listed before that you took lessons from like Herseth and Dokshizer, did you study with these people as well?
Hardenberger: I had lessons with them, you know a few lessons. I think it’s a very important process that you collect information like that. But still you try you know, you go here and there.
Dulin: So you studied a little with many different players. But it was the three main teachers, Nilsson, Thibaud and Stevens who you were with the most?
Hardenberger: Yes, that’s where I felt that ‘now here is a completely open line’. Here this is what I really want to do. So the first encounter with Thibaud was on a holiday in Paris. I found him and I had a lesson, and then I knew that this is someone I wanted to study with.
Dulin: And with him you studied for three years?
Dulin: So what were your lessons with Thibaud like? Intense I assume.
Hardenberger: (laughing) Well, that may be the understatement of the year. It was two different things. In the school there was always class. And class like I have never seen anywhere else. Sometimes quite a small room with all the other guys smoking, and if you miss they would laugh. It was quite a cruel environment. I remember the first lesson I started out playing the first Arban etude, I started off in the tempo I thought it said in the book and Thibaud said “Too slow, sit down.” You know things like that, or “too many mistakes in the first two bars, sit down.” Next week, not do it again now, next week! It’s cruel but it’s how it is as a musician. Maria Callas said “the audience hasn’t paid to see us try.” It’s now or never. But then I also practiced everyday in his house. He would sit up stairs and stamp his foot if I did bad practice down stairs! Another interesting thing with Thibaud was in the same way Bo Nilsson brought out my sound, Thibaud brought out my musicality. I mean as dogmatic as he was about things having to be in tune, centered, really clean and practiced, no scales where you would only hear the first and last notes, very dogmatic. But musical things he sort of let it come out of you. He was very careful I think not implying ‘it should be like this’. He would give me all the traditions of the French repertoire, for instance ‘here we do this, here we do that’ stylistic things, but he really let my musicality grow without disturbing it, which is also very unusual.
Dulin: What did methods did Thibaud use?
Hardenberger: He would use a lot of his interpretation of Stamp, as well as a lot of Arban, a lot of Schlossberg. Also he would change a lot. Going very intensely into Schlossberg for instance, “you must do it like this; you must do it like that” and then the next week I would be practicing Schlossberg and he would say “Why are you practicing Schlossberg?” He did all these things that really made you think. And he was also the first I think to adapt the Caruso method in Europe.
Dulin: And in Arban was there anything in particular he emphasized?
Hardenberger: Also along the same lines, it’s about articulation. And also the mixed disciplines, the slur and the articulation, the real clean classical playing. I mean if you can play the Arban book from beginning to end then you can play most things. Arban and Clarke most people usually practice little bits of it, just certain things. It’s the whole thing.
Dulin: And you still use Arban?
Hardenberger: Oh yes. Now it’s more like I can feel when certain disciplines need work. If I am playing a lot of classical pieces I would spend more time on the Arban, or if I need to get a discipline really back into shape.
Dulin: What do you practice in it?
Hardenberger: Again it’s something I spent so much time on. It’s such a vital part of how my playing developed. That was in Paris. It’s all about centering. You know, attack is such a bad word because it implies something going towards the front, and I see the tongue action as a release of sound. And it needs to be going back very fast. If you do that then the sound is free and you can do the next one. And then when you can do it on one note, Arban very cleverly does it with intervals. I really did the whole book very meticulously then. Now if I have been doing a lot of modern pieces, then I will feel the need to preserve the classical qualities of my playing and I will dig into it again. But as for what I do out of the Arban everyday is very little. Two minutes or so, just to see that that discipline is under control. I will do page 14 number 16. But I will do it slurred in groups of four, and really focusing on the first note of the group. And then I will slur three notes and articulate one, then slur two and articulate two and finally as written. I really try to achieve a machine like action so that each note should be like a pearl necklace.
Dulin: Do you do it in other keys?
Hardenberger: No, just F. If the feel is there I don’t need to spend a lot of time on it. But if I have been doing a lot of very rough work, then I might need more time cleaning that up. Sometimes you know we can end up playing what Thibaud called ‘too much in front’ of the instrument and you are over blowing everything then this is a very good process to back off.
Dulin: Do you still play the Characteristic Studies?
Hardenberger: Yes, I would do them just for fun, just to recognize them. They are the perfect thing to build stamina. Not taking a break at every double bar, really making the connections. (Hardenberger sings a small bit from the first study) And really go through the etude from beginning to end. Because there are two things with strength, one thing is pure strength. That is to be able to play high and loud. And of course the other is stamina so that I can play that piece (Hardenberger points to a score of a new piece by H.K. Gruber that he will premiere later this year). It’s what we mean when we talk about playing economically. That’s the theory anyway.
Dulin: And you said you still practice Clarke?
Hardenberger: Yes, or any kind of scales. And there is no way around scales. There are a lot of these disciplines on any instrument. We try to find short cuts around it. Strength is one and scales are another.. Every musician has to do it. So I do Clarke alternating with the Stamp patterns on page 29. And of course Clarke is good because you get some articulation in there as well.
Dulin: Do you use the entire book?
Hardenberger: Well I did. In Paris we had one whole chapter each week that needed to be good in every key, not just the comfortable ones. And now one day I will do one bit, another day a different bit of it. But its two things, one is when you learn it the first time in life, and for scales, the younger you are the better it is. It’s much harder after you are twenty.
Dulin: Did Thibaud use Franquin method? (Thibaud emphasized the Franquin after Hardenberger left the conservatory)
Hardenberger: No, not so much. I have used that a lot, but we did do a bit of it. That (Franquin) was something I picked up on my own. The competition in the school was of course was fierce. There were the two classes, Maurice Andre and Thibaud. I read in an interview that that was something that had been important to him (Andre). I tried it out and Thibaud showed me of course how it worked. But that is something that I think I developed on my own later.
Dulin: What is it that you work out of in Franquin?
Hardenberger: It’s basically one page, page 115, which is the main thing. But already in the first few pages he makes a clear distinction between detache, so a clear ‘tah’. It’s sounds simple to say it , but on the trumpet it’s not so easy. Then he ads a slur, a proper slur, a really smooth slur. And then finally detache dans le son (tonguing on the sound), a clear ‘tah’ without stopping the sound. And this is in the first page. I know a lot of professional players who cannot do that. So it’s a real control almost like bowing for a string instrument. Thibaud used to say “On the violin there are five thousand ways to of beginning the same note. On the trumpet we have two, we get it or we miss it.” (Hardenberger laughs) And he said if you can have ten then you already have a musical language. Because the beginning of the note conditions how the rest of it is going to be of course, and if you have ten you already have different colors.
Dulin: Did you work on etudes very much?
Hardenberger: Yes very much, both with Bo and Thibaud. I had a very solid foundation by the time I came to Paris so I could take the beating.
Dulin: Do you still practice etudes?
Dulin: Which ones, (other than the Characteristic Studies)?
Hardenberger: The Charlier are the ones I would still play now. I don’t use them now for the same purpose as I did as a student. You know when you are a student you use etudes as a way of learning style and finding expression. And now it’s more to recognize something. If I am working on a lot of modern repertoire for instance it’s just like a cleansing process to play a few of those etudes. Also there is an old Russian book that Bo gave it to me in photo copies. There are a few of those that I very often play. I think its all different composers. And then of course I will revisit etudes when I am teaching.
Dulin: You also mentioned to the Balay method and the etudes.
Hardenberger: The Balay method is very good. Once you have achieved an easy way of playing one note, then you have to do that within a phrase in Balay. They are very musical little scales, and they are unpredictable, which is something I always look for in exercises. You can’t mentally rest. They have to be phrased. They are very simple, sort of with a Mozart quality. You know that’s something we suffer from. We don’t have any high quality easy music like pianist who have very good music that is not difficult. We don’t have that. So we have to make that up in the Arban or in the Balay, but it’s only little snippets.
Dulin: And do you have a story about the Balay etude book?
Hardenberger: Well, (Hardenberger smiles) it was in the second etude in my second year in Paris. I didn’t play it very well. And Thibaud made me cry in front of the whole class and then he kicked me out for a couple of months. For two months I was not allowed to play in class. And remember I still practicing in his house everyday, and eating dinner with him. Eventually I was allowed to play again in class. Much later I asked him why he did that, because it was very tough on me. He said because he wanted to see if I could take it, because he knew if I could get through that I could take what the music business could be like later on. He was a tough teacher, but very wise.
Dulin: What to you do to warm up?
Hardenberger: I spend a lot of time bending notes until I feel I am producing the way I want.
Dulin: And then you use Stamp?
Hardenberger: Yes, and then basically with that embryo I just expand it so that I keep the feeling of playing a medium G and keep that through all the disciplines. That’s what the daily warm up or routine is about.
Dulin: So which things in Stamp do you use?
Hardenberger: Stamp is like Schlossberg. I think it’s very often misunderstood that they are methods that you should work from the beginning of the book to the end of the book. They (Stamp and Schlossberg) were both people who gave people little notes of exercises ‘here practice this for a week’, so I think you make your own routine, or together with your teacher you make your routine. I mean there are specific exercises aimed to solve specific problems. So not all of them do you have to do all of your life. I start with bending notes then I go onto the mouthpiece and then I take one of the warm-ups and expand it.
Dulin: Could you talk about “poo” attacks?
Hardenberger: Yes, that’s a vital idea in the Stamp method. That idea, well practiced, creates such a good rapport between the musician and the instrument. It creates a contact between the air that you have inside the body and the air that is inside the instrument. You cannot force the vibration or force the air with the tongue. If you practice that all over the range of the trumpet then you are more comfortable finding the right position for each note.
Dulin: How much do you practice this part of your playing?
Hardenberger: The whole beginning of the warm-up. It’s also very important for the articulation. We were talking earlier about all of these ten different articulations. The poo attack is one extreme. If you are at ease with that it’s wonderful. The second movement of the Haydn is an example of this because it makes the articulation more secure. So in fact the Arban and the Poo attack belong together because they are the two extremes of this scale of articulation.
Dulin: You mentioned Caruso, is that part of your warm-up?
Hardenberger: Not in the warm-up no. It’s a very limited version of Caruso. Thibaud started doing it when it first appeared. I had not heard about it anyway. And he started using it. We were all guinea pigs. So we started doing it very severely there and at first we couldn’t play at all, because we were not taking the horn off at all and keeping the tension we couldn’t play. But I could very soon realize that I was getting stronger. And the advantage when you are very young and you study with someone you believe in completely is that you don’t have second thoughts as if you were past twenty or slightly more mature. So I just did it. But then soon I found out that for me it was really good to do the six notes and the thirds, then take a break and the thirds again and pedal notes. And that’s it. All it takes is fifteen minutes of my day and it gives me strength. It was only after that that I could start to attempt to play the Brandenburg or what came later with Birtwistle and others. It’s very important still. If I am in a period of performing, or if I need to build strength and I am playing tough pieces I do it at the end of the day. And to do it at the end of the day is very good because you have no second thoughts. You don’t need to feel that ‘oh my sound will not be good after this’, because then you have at least eight hours to recover. And that can probably be personal, but for me it conditions the muscles for the next day. This is the opposite of warming down.
Dulin: What do you practice most on, Bb or C trumpet?
Hardenberger: C definitely. It was always the most natural. I started on the Bb, which I think is a good idea. I think you should definitely do all the basics first on the Bb and then if its natural change to the C. It’s like just because Tiger Woods has a certain shoe size everybody shouldn’t be wearing the same shoe that he is wearing. Again it comes back to what we said earlier, ‘I want my sound to be like this’. If you don’t know that it doesn’t matter what you play.
Dulin: And you did a lot of solfege in Paris?
Hardenberger: Yes we had nine hours per week, and I came from Sweden having had none and I didn’t speak French, so there was a lot for me to do. I remember once I got into the school, Thibaud said “you need to do solfege now you know that. Well I will buy you the Lavignac method which is what I used when I was young”. He came home with a huge pile of books.
There were solfege lessons two or three times per week and I am sure I had to practice it at least an hour or two everyday. Solfege was everything including transposition with clefs.
Dulin: Could you explain the Premier Prix at the Paris conservatory?
Hardenberger: Well it’s not there anymore, but the system was such that at the end of each year there was a competition. Everybody who had taken their exams in the theoretical subjects could pass this exam competition. The two teachers (Andre and Thibaud) would not be part of the jury. They had no say. So the jury would be external, they would be colleagues of the teachers, other players in town, so it would get very political. It’s not that only one person would get the premier prix. This is what people often misunderstand. One year there could be five people getting the premier prix, it was a level. Usually if you got the deuxeme prix you could stay on another year so that you could finish school with a premier prix, but if you had a premier prix you could go. If you were good at solfege you could finish your theoretical items and in a short time have the premier prix only after one or two years.
Dulin: When did you study with Thomas Stevens?
Hardenberger: Stevens was after Paris and after the professional life had started a little bit.
Dulin: Did you study with James Stamp?
Hardenberger: Yes at summer camps. You know they were wonderful things. Jean-Pierre Mathez, who had Brass Bulletin, organized these events where Thibaud, Stevens, Stamp would teach at the same time during weeks in Switzerland. It was great to go to as a fifteen year old. And I sort of always knew Stevens had something that I wanted, but I didn’t know what that was.
Dulin: Do you think that some of your interest in contemporary music was influenced by Stevens?
Hardenberger: No, I had that already. I was playing Henderson while I was at school in Paris. So that was there from the beginning. But he has this amazing control. I didn’t know what it was. I thought maybe it was yoga or something mental he was doing. But what he taught me was in fact how to read music properly. Relation, text, brain, execution, that was what it was about. And in fact it was based on the whole Vacchiano tradition. Seeing what is in the text. Teaching your eye to see what is important. He would have me do these very difficult transpositions (Sachse) And would changing them saying “Do this one in G, now in F#” And he didn’t allow me to stop, insisting on the phrasing and on the important musical issues that are in the text as a rule, even if your brain is busy transposing. And this is a great, great, great method. Then your ability to see what is in a line develops very quickly.
Hardenberger: If I ever write a book about anything in trumpet playing it’s going to be about that. You know it’s not what you practice, it’s how you practice. You can practice Stamp all day and Arban all day, and Franquin and Sachse, but if it’s not done with an idea or a goal set by an idea, or only if your teacher says so then there is no point.
Dulin: You have known Bob Malone for a long time.
Hardenberger: Yes a long time. He was there on my first visit to Los Angeles and I met him through Tom Stevens. So he has known my playing forever and he hears what I am trying to achieve and helps me in doing that. On a trip early on where I went all around America, I had been to Chicago and in Evanston I had bought a C trumpet that was very vibrant, but it had issues, and his lead pipe just fixed it. And at that time, Tom was working with him. With Bob things are ongoing. I am very conservative when it comes to equipment. I would never ever change the mouthpiece myself. I will have very definite ideas about what I think it is in a mouthpiece for example that makes certain things happen, and then when I come to a place where ‘now I need to do something’ then I do it, but never too early, never as a short cut. I would rather practice. And it’s good to have someone like Bob to help when I need it.
Dulin: What are you thoughts on breathing?
Hardenberger: That we all know how to do it very well. It’s the first thing we do. It’s the first thing we do in the morning, we yawn. It’s the perfect breath. Then it’s a matter of playing and having a rapport with the instrument where you don’t disturb that. We all know how to do it, but we see people as soon as they get a trumpet they forget how to do it all together. The place where we can take the force from to create the higher airspeed is low, but it’s not a constant pressure. It depends on the range you are playing in. Too me the diaphragm is only intermediary, we cannot control the diaphragm. It’s a freedom thing more than anything so that this (Hardenberger points to the chest) is all resonance.
Dulin: What about the timing of the breath?
Hardenberger: I heard a voice teacher say this once and I thought it was brilliant “You should breathe as openly as possible and then remain like that as long as you sing or play.” And the breath is what conditions how your sound is going to be. You need to know do it fast, and how to do it for a long phrase. It’s the back swing.
Dulin: What is your practice schedule like?
Hardenberger: When I was young Bo gave me a rule to rest as much as I practiced. And in those days it would be ten minutes practice and then ten minutes rest. And then life changes, you need to get a lot of practice done in a shorter amount of time. But now I like to just go on. I may have a book with me when I need a break.
Dulin: What is a normal practice day like for you?
Hardenberger: Well it’s different if I am at home or on the road. At home it’s more. Like Wednesday when I got here it was four or five hours. On concert days it’s normal to do two hours. And at home it will be five or six hours.
Dulin: But on the longer days do you rest more?
Hardenberger: No, not really. I think it started when we had kids. Before that you could practice when you felt inspired. You could practice late at night. Then with kids, there would be a slot of four hours in the morning and a slot of hours here and there, and so you practice as much as you can, but that is also easier when you are more advanced.
Dulin: Do you record your practicing?
Hardenberger: No, I did though. Not everything, not whole sessions or anything like that. There will always be things that we don’t hear. Vibrato is such a thing. I always had a sort of natural vibrato; I don’t know where it’s made. It’s not a hand vibrato. And there was a time when I had to get a grip on it a little bit, to be able to take it away.
Dulin: Was this early on or in the middle of your career?
Hardenberger: Early to middle. Once you start to make records it’s not so necessary to record yourself in practice. And half of the concerts I play are recorded. Now it’s more that I try not to listen myself, because you want this quality in the present.
Dulin: So your career started when you were 15 as a soloist?
Hardenberger: No, I did my debut concert then playing the Hummel. You could say it starts with that but it depends on what you mean.
Dulin: Did you participate in many competitions when you were young?
Hardenberger: There were a few years there when I did a lot of them. They are terrible things so I was fortunate to do them when I was young enough not to care too much. But there are good things about them. I met people like Stephen Burns. You make friends for life. For me it gave me a sense that there was something in my playing that made people listen, that made it stick out. You don’t know that when you hear people say that ‘you’re good’ or ‘you’re not good’ because you have no idea if it’s some thing that carries out to people until you have tried.
Dulin: So is that what steered your career towards being a soloist?
Hardenberger: Probably, life is a strange thing you know. Who knows? If I had gone to Chicago instead of Paris, what would have happened then? Or what would have happened if I would have gotten a job in Paris in Boulez’s ensemble instead of going home to Sweden for my “military career” (laughs) I mean in those days we had to do military service in Sweden. Otherwise you had to stay out of Sweden for ten years and I wasn’t prepared to do that. So I went home and did my six months of what I had to do. And just before that I auditioned for Boulez and almost got the job. Had I gotten that job I would have stayed out of Sweden and then maybe I would have gone that direction and no solo career. So who knows? Of course the teaching of Thibaud brought that out in me also because he could see the ambition and the possibility I suppose.
Dulin: How did your interest in contemporary music start?
Hardenberger: Very early, maybe this was because there was no classical music in the family. I didn’t make so much of a distinction between old and new music or contemporary or not contemporary music. What I liked or didn’t like was more important.
Dulin: You have been a champion of expanding the boundaries for the trumpet literature by working with many composers. Can you talk about your process in working with composers?
Hardenberger: Well, there is no normal. With different composers it works differently. With Birtwistle, he is like Beethoven. He writes it and there it is, you have to deal with it. With Henze, if you look at his requiem the same material is found in the Sonatina. With Gruber I gave him all of the tricks to work with. I really think he is a genius. There is a lot of collaboration with him.
Dulin: What qualities do you look for with composers?
Hardenberger: Well I suppose I used to be very open. I didn’t want to get stuck. You know the modern music world has many different camps and they hate each other. There is the
‘neo-such and such’ and the ‘ism-that and that’. But as I do get older I do tend to like certain things. I like pulse and some sort of harmony. It doesn’t mean that it has to be traditional harmony. I like complication. So in fact, this is why I like Gruber. This is why he is writing his fourth trumpet piece now. This is probably because we understand each other very well. I understand his music, and he is excited to write for the trumpet. This is a nice quality in a composer. He just phoned me today with questions about how quickly can I change from one mute to another and could this and that be done? It’s fun.
Dulin: What’s your first reaction when you get a piece like the Henze Requiem or the Gruber works?
Hardenberger: It’s like reading a map. There are things that you recognize and things that are completely new. Or it’s like a language. If you know French, you can recognize some in Italian, but there are other things you have to learn. And you take what you recognize as the foundation and very slowly you build around it. And sometimes you run into real trouble and you have to solve it. If it’s a first performance you can talk to the composer to see if we can find another solution. And there is a big amount of risk taking. Very often on the day of the first performance I don’t actually know if I can make it from the beginning to the end physically. Because already starting with Birtwistle in 1986 the pure physical aspect of the whole thing has really been something. And you need to find a very economical way of playing where no extra energy is wasted on any note. It’s needs to be so centered and so controlled that you are not wasting anything. The slur needs to be really smooth etc. It’s all of these little, little things that makes it possible to play nonstop for twenty seven minutes or whatever it is.
Dulin: So the Birtwistle is the first piece like that?
Hardenberger: Yes, that’s what sort of made my career take off, especially in Britain. And it was definitely a new phase for me. There was actually the Zimmerman from 1954 that nobody was playing, which today is now major repertoire. You can’t be a trumpet soloist and not play that piece. It’s a real respected piece that any conductor would want to have in their program. It’s right up there, it’s a masterpiece. And that has the same element of physical strength and that’s probably why it wasn’t played for so long. And then I started to play it and Reinhold Friedrich started to play it and now it’s standard repertoire. And Birtwistle was the first one that was written for me that had this weight musically. The basic idea of the piece is that he (Birtwistle) had been to this medieval town, Lucca, Italy. And there was a procession and he would see it from different points of view. But it was always going on. So one of the ideas was this constant playing, it was very important to the piece as such. When I first saw that it I was overwhelmed. And I was twenty five years old.
Dulin: How do you train for what your job is now? How do you train for something like Brandenburg versus Birtwistle?
Hardenberger: The basics are the same and very simple. If you can center every note and control it into the body, it doesn’t matter what music you are playing, so that you are not faking anything in your playing. The preparation in that is exactly the same. And to keep the lip strong but at the same time flexible.
Dulin: What is your process when you are learning new pieces?
Hardenberger: Well something like that (points again to the Gruber) you have to stare at it for along time before you even understand what it says. There’s no information there that is strange. It’s the normal signs, it’s just a lot if it and it’s in an order that we are not used to. And then I use the piano, and solfege to try and hear it, and from the beginning a non-violent method. I think that is maybe what I do different. I am very disciplined at this stage. I will not try to see how it would sound, because as well as you can program good things into the back of the brain you can also program mistakes and once they are in they are very hard to get out. With big intervals it’s slurred first, slow and soft, slow and soft.
Dulin: How do you deal with nerves when you are dealing with the large works that you are doing now?
Hardenberger: I have been doing it all my life, that’s how I deal with the nerves. I can tell you the first time I had to play the Gruber which starts with a low F# and you have to sing in falsetto a C# to create a chord, I can tell you the heart was pounding. So nerves are there, and you deal with them through your preparation and through the feeling that this is the thing that you live for. You know that’s why you get nervous, because it means a lot to you. But once you realize that though you can turn it around. It’s like a force if you use it correctly. But it’s all in the preparation. A funny thing with those very hard pieces, they are also the easiest pieces to have in the repertoire, because once you have practiced them and you have done it correctly you can very quickly take them up again. This is because in the first work you had to do so much to even get close to reality that you need a week and you can pick them back up.
Dulin: How old were you when you started playing serious pieces like Enesco and Honegger?
Hardenberger: Very young, 14 or 15.
Dulin: Could you talk a little about some of our landmark pieces from the trumpet and piano repertoire and the influence they had on what was to come?
Hardenberger: Our repertoire can by no means be compared to violinist or pianist. So the ones that are good we need to treasure them. I think the Enesco is really the first of these. It really showed what the trumpet could do. Sadly had many more people heard it then it could have created a lot more pieces. How we determine quality is a very interesting thing. I think it’s only by time. I think my way of determining it is that in a good piece you can always find new things in it, whereas a slightly lesser piece will offer only one or two solutions and that’s it. The Haydn concerto can be played in millions of ways and still be correct. The Hindemith is a major piece in that aspect. I think that trumpet and piano must be a very difficult combination to write for. You know you will see it in all the good pieces the pianist needs to be very busy because we need a lot of sound. The trumpet can be sometimes one dimensional. You can see this in concertos as well. Composers often add artificially add dimensions too the piece. For example in the Birtwistle he adds vibraphone always shadowing the trumpet.
Dulin: Are you interested in having sonatas written for you?
Hardenberger: Yes, but there have been no sonatas written for me. I have brought it up so many times with composers but I think they get frightened by it. Part of this is that many composers are frightened of writing for the piano because they have the opposite problem of what we have. They have so much good repertoire. So a lot of composers are maybe afraid of looking foolish (laughs). But whatever combination of instruments you play with, you should try to find the pieces that you yourself feel convinced that I like this music, I am curious about this music and I really want to present it. I see too often, especially young people playing just anything because ‘oh well that’s cool’. And then it will be a half hearted effort because there is no wish to do anything with it.
Dulin: What were your musical influences when you were growing up, both on the trumpet and away from the trumpet?
Hardenberger: Very many, I think that’s the most important answer is that there are many. Not copying anyone. Maurice Andre was there of course. He was the soloist on the classical side. Without him I don’t think it would have happened. He was a role model. I listened to everyone on the trumpet side. I couldn’t put any one player higher than another. I have great respect and love for very many. Thibaud, Dokshizer, Herseth, you know you can go on forever. But also quite early I listened to Miles Davis and Clifford Brown. But maybe more a musical influence from singers.
Dulin: You mentioned Dokshizer, what was his influence like?
Hardenberger: He was of course a major influence. He had his style as Maurice has his style and Ed Tarr his. It’s not a question of adapting their style. It’s rather to see someone who has gone so far and is so expressive. That is what is so exciting, and it speaks to you and you listen, it’s as simple as that. And I got to meet him when I was very young, it was exciting.
Dulin: You mentioned singers, was anyone in particular was important to you?
Hardenberger: Yes actually, the Swedish tenor, Jussi Bjorling. He was very important and still is, also violinist such as Heifitz. You know you go through certain phases, it’s like composers. People ask you who your favorite composer is. It’s impossible to say. There will be certain ones you always come back to like Bach, because without him it wouldn’t have happened. And then you go through phases where you would listen a lot to early Baroque or a lot Sibelius, and at certain times that will be the thing.
Dulin: While we are on the subject of baroque music, would you talk about your approach to it?
Hardenberger: One of my very early influences was Ed Tarr, because Bo was working with Ed Tarr in his ensemble. And I actually thought before Paris, that that was the route I was going. I had a natural trumpet and if I could play in Tarr’s ensemble that would be a really great thing to do. I was maybe fifteen or so and I had quite a lot of contact with him. And then I went to Paris and there was another thing. So with me there has always been a mix and I juggle them until they become mine. Once I found the Sherzer piccolo trumpet that was very important. I had a Selmer and I tried Schilke but I could never make the sound on the piccolo that I wanted. And suddenly one day these German trumpets appeared in Paris. Bernard Jeannoutot, who had a store named Olifant, called up Thibaud and said there was this new piccolo trumpet and to come and try it. And we went over there and tried them out. Suddenly I could make a sound the sound on the piccolo. And I had no money and Thibaud bought it. My parents later paid him back, but that just shows how giving he was. As far as my approach, it’s like cooking. I get four or five recipes and then I make my own dish. So I am curious and suspicious at the same time.
Dulin: Can you talk about where you draw your influences with the classical style, in particular they Haydn and Hummel concertos?
Hardenberger: I think like any other style, the influences need to come from many different places. The worst thing you can do is to take another trumpet player and just do what they do. You need to read books from that time, look at paintings from that time, and preferably a little bit before that time, because it’s always interesting to see how music was a little bit later. If you see impressionism the music comes a little bit later than the paintings for instance. And you draw the inspiration from these things and by asking things like ‘how would a pianist do this’? The more of these influences you have the more your own idea will form itself. It’s like an assimilation process. I cannot always explain because I read this book that I play the Haydn like this or that, it’s just a whole mix of things and it comes out. And I also believe a lot in the classical time its framework and mechanics and then within that to find emotion and humanism. So it’s a more strict frame work. But I think people often go wrong by just buying someone else’s point of view. For example, let’s say there is a place in a piece that has a rubato. Now if you’ve never practiced that part with a metronome completely strict, without any rubato, then you don’t know what you are doing. The first time you practice it, you play it like you have heard it with some rubato or something then you don’t know what you are doing. And also to this subject let me say another thing. It would be nice if people would practice the whole piece at least. How many times have I heard in masterclasses very good playing up until the normal audition place then after that, there’s nobody home. And it’s only safe playing until there, not very imaginative.
Dulin: Do you have plans to record the French concerto repertoire?
Hardenberger: I do want to record that repertoire. It must be done someday. I would like to record the Tomasi, the Jolivet Concertino, the Planel and perhaps the Desenclos. But the record companies don’t want to because it might not sell as much, but it will happen.
Dulin: Can you talk about your partnership with the Jacques Werup?
Hardenberger: Yes, it started around 1995 or so. I had these pieces that were based on or inspired by poetry and predominantly French poetry and he is a Swedish poet but he has lived in France. He has always worked with music; he is a jazz saxophonist himself. He likes to use his text with high art and low art. He’s a very interesting guy. We started to put this program together and it was good because I had to play for so long. I had to play for one hour and ten minutes or so and I needed to play basically all the time. At first I thought it was impossible, but then listening to him, rather than feeling that it hurts was a good thing. When we perform, if we are too obsessed with how we feel it’s not good. We need to take away the self awareness in that moment. That should all be there when you practice. It’s a very important difference to make. When you practice you can look at things from all possible angles, but once you perform you have to try to let go.
Dulin: What is the repertoire for these programs?
Hardenberger: Well the first program we did I played some Telemann unaccompanied pieces either for flute or recorder and we brought them up with poetry also the second Charlier etude, with a very beautiful poem that really gave it even more character. It was a process where we used some pieces that already had poetry. We used some of his poems and I chose music to it. We also used Takemitsu, Henze and Michael Blake Watkins. And now the next one’s we are doing uses one of Sweden’s best jazz pianist Jan Lundgren, where the three art forms sort of clash.
Dulin: What is your view on how the trumpet has changed as a solo instrument?
Hardenberger: As a solo instrument I hope I have done something and others with me. Without the previous generation of soloist it would not be possible and I hope we have taken it a little bit further. I am proud to be playing with the Chicago Symphony and the Vienna Philharmonic and orchestras like that. I don’t think that this has been the case before. It’s a great thing that pieces like Zimmerman or Henze are played now. I think at times the trumpet is considered as good as any other solo instrument. Actually when I started my career I thought here in America ‘oh it will be open to new things.” But it was completely the wrong idea. It’s more conservative here (the United States) in the symphonic world.
Dulin: Where do you see it going from here?
Hardenberger: Well I hope it keeps going. I see the ones that are good pieces are slowly becoming more accepted. At first it is considered impossible and then someone comes who can do it. And that’s how I did and that how others will do. Time will tell. I mean it’s not automatic that our art form that has only existed only a few hundred years in the entire history of mankind will stay around. And if we don’t treasure it will go away. It’s the responsibility of every musician to make that happen. It won’t just happen on its own.
This interview with Håkan Hardenberger took place in January of 2008 in Cincinnati. The conversations you see here were the result of two interview sessions. Mr. Hardenberger was generous in giving me so much time with him. His enthusiasm and eloquence when speaking about the trumpet was inspiring as were his performances with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Paavo Järvi with whom he performed the Concertos of Arvo Pärt and Eino Tamberg. The author would like to thank Stephen Burns for his gracious help in setting up this interview. Also thanks to Maestro Järvi and the musicians and staff of the Cincinnati Symphony for all of their help throughout the week.
The name Håkan Hardenberger is a household word to trumpet players around the world. His virtuosity is well known and he has been a highly regarded soloist for nearly three decades. Hardenberger was born in Malmö, Sweden. He began studying the trumpet at the age of eight with Bo Nilsson in Malmö and continued his studies both at the Paris Conservatoire, with Pierre Thibaud, and in Los Angeles with Thomas Stevens.
Mr. Hardenberger performs with the world's leading orchestras, including the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, Vienna and London Philharmonics, London Symphony Orchestra, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, The Philharmonia, Orchester des Bayerische Rundfunk, Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia and NHK Symphony Orchestra. Conductors he regularly collaborates with include Paavo Berglund, Pierre Boulez, Alan Gilbert, Daniel Harding, Neeme Järvi,, Pavvo Järvi Ingo Metzmacher, Esa-Pekka Salonen, John Storgårds, Thomas Dausgaard and David Zinman. He is a frequent guest at the major festivals of Lucerne, Salzburg and the BBC Proms, and has given recitals in the Konzerthaus Vienna, Wigmore Hall, Tonhalle Zürich and Musikhalle Hamburg.
The list of works written for, and championed by Hardenberger, now stand as key highlights in the trumpet repertoire including works of Sir Harrison Birtwistle, Hans Werner Henze, Rolf Martinsson, Olga Neuwirth, Arvo Pärt and Mark Anthony Turnage. HK Gruber's concerto Aerial has received in excess of 40 performances by Hardenberger and was highlighted at the 2007 Proms Brass Day with the BBC Philharmonic under the direction of André de Ridder. This Proms "special" also marks Hardenberger's conducting debut with members of the BBC Philharmonic and Royal Northern College of Music Brass.
Of Hardenberger's extensive discography on the Philips, EMI and BIS Records labels two discs were released in 2006; solo works for BIS Records, and a disc of Turnage, Gruber and Eotv?s works with Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra and Peter Eötvös for Deutsche Grammophon which has justly received high praise.
Newly commissioned works in the 2007/08 season include a Luca Francesconi concerto with the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Caecilia directed by Antonio Pappano, and Kurt Schwertsik concerto with the Tonnkuenstler Orchestra and Kristjan Järvi in Vienna's Musikverein. Olga Neuwirth's concerto "O...miramando multiplo..." will be further performed with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France and Ilan Volkov. Hardenberger premiered this work at the 2006 Salzburg Festival with the Vienna Philharmonic and Pierre Boulez, performed also with co-commissioning partner Royal Stockholm Philharmonic and Alan Gilbert. The latter engagement formed a major focus on Hardenberger in Stockholm's Konserthuset, including performances of Henze's Requiem, Gruber's Aerial, the aforementioned Neuwirth, Haydn concerto, and Rolf Martinsson's Bridge.
The 2007/2008 season also sees Hardenberger perform with Oslo Philharmonic, Bayerische Rundfunk (performing "Aerial" under the direction of the composer himself), City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Berlin Radio Orchestra, and the Camerata Salzburg, at the Salzburg Festival as Director-Soloist. On tour he performs with The Philharmonia in Brugge again performing under the baton of the composer whose work he will perform, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies. He tours a newly commissioned work of HK Gruber for trumpet, banjo and string orchestra with the Amsterdam Sinfonietta, and makes an extensive tour with the New Zealand Symphony.
In recital Håkan Hardenberger has several key partnerships; with pianists Aleksandar Madzar with whom he has toured to the USA, and Roland Pöntinen; a unique partnership with Swedish poet Jacques Werup and jazz pianist Jan Lundgren and with percussionist Colin Currie. Hardenberger and Currie can be heard on a newly released CD in 2007 were heard for the first time in the USA in January of 2007
Hardenberger is also a professor at the Malmö Conservatoire, his commitment to teaching is further recognized in his increased presence at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester where he is now a Fellow.
About the Author: Mark Dulin is professor of Trumpet at Winthrop University in Rock Hill South Carolina. He holds a DMA from Stony Brook University, a MM from the University of Cincinnati-College Conservatory of Music and a BM and Performer Diploma from Indiana. His teachers include Kevin Cobb, John Rommel, Marie Speziale, Michael Sachs, James Pandolfi, and Joe Phelps. Dr. Dulin performs frequently with the Charlotte Symphony and the Charleston Symphony as well as a soloist and chamber musician throughout the east coast. For more information see his website at www.markdulin.com
Re: Hardenberger Interview
Thank you for posting this interview. There is so much valuable information......this is required reading!
The Franquin Method Book he refers to in the interview......is this book still available? I could not find much information on the web.
Re: Hardenberger Interview
Thank you for posting. Great read
1953 Mt. Vernon Strad 37 Cornet
1966 Burbank Benge Eb/D
1975 LA Benge 3x+
1976 Strad 37*
1978 LA Benge C
1980 LA Benge 3x
Re: Hardenberger Interview
You can buy the Franquin Method here: Editions musicales- Editions Enoch et cie although it is very pricey. Also I found some great information about the book at this site: Merri Franquin
Hope that helps.
Re: Hardenberger Interview
A modern adaptation of the Franquin Méthode is in preparation. You'll see it rather, sorta, kinda, soon.
Re: Hardenberger Interview
I'm confused. He doesn't mention ANYTHING about the serial numbers of vintage cornets. I don't understand how I'm supposed to learn anything from this.
In all seriousness, though-I think the remark that "it's not what you practice, it's how you practice" is the most important thing that most people don't understand. Really engaging the brain in what you're doing, whether it be Arban, Clarke, Stamp, or anything else, is far more important than owning any one particular book of exercises. As I remember from lesson #1-make a plan, execute plan, evaluate your execution, make a new plan. Reminds me of how Gould made me look like an idiot in front of his whole morning class this past Chosen Vale because I couldn't explain why I do Thompson buzzing basics in two sentences...
Also, Ed, Thibaud-style studio class this week? Montreal is as close to Paris as we get on this continent. Bring cigarettes for everyone.
Re: Hardenberger Interview
Thanks for that superb interview
Re: Hardenberger Interview
Thank you all for the nice comments. It was a real honor to interview an icon of our craft and a personal hero of mine. Notice there was very little of your "normal" trumpet discussion involved here. Everytime I read through the interview I am struck by how idealistic Hakan is about the trumpet and music. If all of us who were professionals and educators had a 10th of what he brings to the table in this regard, it is my opinion that our profession and our sanity would be much better off.
Re: Hardenberger Interview
Re: Hardenberger Interview
Very interesting. Thanks for posting.
So Hardenberger uses Caruso for strength. It would be interesting to know if he ever takes rest days from trumpetplaying.
THE TRUMPETS SHALL SOUND!
Bach Model 43 Bb
Yamaha 8310z Bb
Gezen A/B piccolo
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